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The end of clamshell phones as fashion phones

The segment of fashion phones occupies about 10 percent from all sales of all devices. So, the small share is caused by the high cost of such phones, as the consequence by low sales. But even the rough calculation shows, that for one year are sold not less than 40 million devices which can be named "fashion". What devices are considered fashion for today?

The answer will be found by you quickly, it is mainly clamshell phones and just they. The merit in the promotion of the devices of such form-factor should be related entirely on the account of two companies, they are Motorola and Samsung. They represent two various approaches, in case with Samsung the emphasis is made on design, and on some fashion functions (sound, color), but in devices from Motorola the functionality is most above appreciated. Because of the lack of strong contenders these two companies occupied the most part of the clamshell phones market. In Russia was interesting situation by the end of year, but it is necessary to take into account LG, which practically is not presented in the European countries. To familiarize with the data on the clamshell phones market by the end of the last year it is possible here.

The clamshell form-factor was very attractive to consumers within several years, they were distinguished among other people with usual devices made in the classical form. Such situation is possible wile the number of users of clamshell phones is insignificant, while these devices offer some kind of exclusive. It was so until the middle of 2003, but during this moment the majority of manufacturers has realized that it is necessary to use all chances to gain the market share, because the market does not grow in rash rates any more. So the manufacturers have remembered about clamshell phones, the models began to be offered not only by Korean manufacturers, in Asia this form - factor is traditionally popular, but also by European manufacturers. The first signs can be named Siemens CL50 which was originally intended for Asian market, but its sales there were unsuccessful. The model was not also extremely successful in European market, it was present in Siemens' model range more likely for assortment. By the way, this model is the development of one of Asian companies, perhaps, therefore this device was received so coldly in Europe.

Philips for the first time has decided to offer a few clamshell phones in the market at once, they are Philips 330 and 630. In case Philips 330 we see typically youth device with rather low cost about 150 dollars. There were no new clamshell phones on the market for this price till this moment. Taking into account Philips' share in the GSM market, it doesn't worth expecting that this model will become extremely popular, but it will also play the certain role, having set a reference point for other manufacturers, the price reference point. The second model, Philips 630 is more traditional, it is a mid price level clamshell phone (220-230$), but the company positions it not as fashion device, but as the workhorse, i.e. phone for talking. But it has all the attributes of fashion device, such as various case colors. The approach of Philips evidently shows, that clamshell phones even more often become not fashion devices, but just phones made in the other form - factor.

The considerable contribution to the formation of this opinion was also brought by Motorola. Its popular Motorola v50 Lite costs a bit more than 100$, but it is in the market some years. On the other hand it is one more reason according to which it is necessary to consider clamshell phones as usual devices; their share in the general sales grows promptly. In the near future the majority of the European manufacturers will present clamshell phones in their model range, such devices become habitual and as the result, their functionality will be appreciated first of all, instead of design.

The role of fashion devices among the clamshell phones will keep models, focused on the certain group of users, Samsung T500 is one of the examples of such phone. This device is intended only for women, it emphasizes the incrustation of the external screen by 32 jewels. In the future such devices will occupy the definite share of the market, but it's impossible relating them exclusively to clamshell phones, it's more likely an individual example. Such devices can be made in classical form - factor, in case with Samsung, the choice has been caused by strong positions of the company in the segment of clamshell phones, by its adherence to such phones.


As a whole, clamshell phones will cease to be fashion, finally it will take place until the next summer. It will be enough to present clamshell phones by several manufacturers, which will be related to the segment from 150 up to 200 dollars and the market will react immediately, the fashion component of the clamshells will start reducing. This statement can be illustrated by the following example. There are only few manufactures of such devices on market now, they compete among themselves, but the prestigiousness of this type of phones does not cause doubt, even because of their price and opportunities (thanks Samsung). But at the same time the occurrence of several devices with poor functions, but made in the same form - factor, and selling for the lower price will sap the market for Samsung. There will be no any catastrophic consequences for the company, but the part of potential buyers will refuse to purchase such phones. But Motorola will be the winner, its production will be chosen because of the functionality, instead of the fashion component. From this moment will become popular cheap clamshells of the company (v150 will become the leader of sales and will change v50). The consequence of popularity of cheap clamshells will become the greater falling of interest to such devices, as they don't offer any interesting functions. First of all the sales collapse will affect on small manufacturers from Asia, it reduces the sales for those who will enter the market with such products, for example, Alcatel.

What is next? It is known, that the market does not suffer the emptiness, and collapsed sales of clamshells should be replaced by something. Certainly, we can remember such device as Motorola v70, which approaches ideally on the role of image device, but such phones cannot become mass, the absence of the big number of imitations for this model shows it clearly.

Sagem X8 is a combination of the classical device with clamshell, the explanations of the developers about that in the opened state clamshell phones are too fragile, look superficial. For example, you can dance jig on phones from Samsung, they sustain it. Therefore Õ8 is worth to be considering as some kind of a hybrid.

The fashion segment of the market will start to be sated due to models equipped with slider, as the first signs can serve Siemens SL55. Exactly this model won't become too popular, affect some concomitant factors, but the form - factor will get popularity.

The devices from LG, equipped with slider will appear on the market until the end of year, later some European manufacturers will present such models. In 2004 the phones with slider begin to divide the fashion segment of the market with clamshells. We don't presume to judge as far as quickly such devices win popularity, but one thing can be told for sure, such devices will be presented on the market in appreciable amounts. But the end of the clamshell phones as fashion device we can observe already now, each new low-price model only moves it near.

Eldar Murtazin (eldar@mobile-review.com)
Translated by Andreas von Horn (andreas@mobile-review.com)

Published —16 July 2003

Have something to add?! Write us... eldar@mobile-review.com



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